• Parents of gang members sent to parenting class

    Date: 01.07.11 | by Judge Tom.

    The Parent Accountability Act went into effect in California in 2010. This new law gives judges the authority to order parents of gang members to attend parenting classes. If a minor is convicted of a gang-related crime such as graffiti, trespass or criminal damage, his or her parents may be spending their Saturdays in a classroom.

    The law has been slow in development due to state cutbacks in education and poor attendance at the sessions. However, it is starting to catch on especially in areas of high gang membership and activity. In Los Angeles, for example, there are reportedly 80,000 gang members.

    The classes include lectures, discussion and videos showing images of drug paraphernalia, addicts before and after becoming hooked, and a review of the classic warning signs of gang involvement. These include tattoos, secretive behavior, use of gang hand signals, a sudden change in music, and carrying markers or spray paint commonly used for gang graffiti. Parents also meet with the families of victims of gang crimes.

    When a person violates a court order, they may be held in contempt of court. This is true in both civil and criminal cases. What that means here is that if the parent fails to attend the parenting classes, he or she may be held in contempt and ordered to jail for a period of time. Contempt is one area of the law where you can be locked up without being charged with a crime.

    However, when found by a judge to be in “civil contempt” you must be given an opportunity to purge yourself – in other words you’re given the keys to the jail. By complying with the court’s order you can free yourself. In this case, the court may release the parent with a promise to go to the classes. If the parent misses again they will be returned to jail for possibly a longer time.

    What do you think of this new law? Will it make a difference if parents are more in tune with the early signs of gang involvement? Do you think meeting with victims will have an impact on parents? Should the young gang member also be required to sit down with the victim and victim’s family and discuss consequences?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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